Sunday, November 15, 2009

Santorini, Greece November 15, 2009

We arrived in Santorini, Greece at 7 AM after sailing from Rhodes, Greece, at 5 PM yesterday.
I was up and out on our balcony as we approached harbor. The cliffs here are amazing with brilliant layers of color ranging from magenta to golden hues and all values of browns. When our ship anchored (we couldn't dock here, but are anchored in the harbor and will go ashore in tenders), our balcony looks directly out onto the shore Santorini. We can see Fira (the largest city and the capital) at the top of the cliff. Our ship in anchored in the caldera left by the huge volcanic eruption of many years ago, and the Aegean Sea is on the other side of the cliffs. We should see that in our shore excursion later on. From our balcony we can see the walking path connecting the town of Fira at the top of the cliff and the fishing village at the shoreline. Beside it is the cable car which can be used instead of the long and tiring walk or donkey ride along the zig-zag path. The pictures show the multicolored cliffs, the winding path up the cliff-face, and the cable car line.

We attended a 9 AM protestant worship service led by a very dry Catholic priest. Only about 35 or so passengers attended (a little over 1/100 of the passengers). It lasted about 45 minutes and was, let's see..... what shall I say? .....well, it was nothing to write home about; but at least it was some time to be alone, quiet, and to meditate on our God for a short time, so it was good! I missed our good pastor and his inspiring messages however.

Update: It is now evening and I am just up from a short nap. Our shore excursion this afternoon was very interesting. Our group took a tender from the ship and were taken to a different harbor where we boarded a bus to see the island. Santorini is a small island, one of three that form a caldera. The bus made hairpin turn after hairpin turn as we pleated our way to the top of the cliff that we had seen from the ship. This is a beautiful, but steep and rocky, island. All the buildings are white with blue trim, as is the case on every island we have seen in this area. The amazing multi-colored cliffs I mentioned early are under constant study by geologists of all kinds, according to our guide, Ilena. We visited the now-defunct monastery at the top of the mountain, a black-sand beach; we traveled a road from which we could look left and see the caldera and the ship and the look right and see the Aegean Sea. Gorgeous scenery.
The weather today was a dream. The sun shone and the temperature ranged from a slightly chilly early morning to a perfect short-sleeve afternoon.

Tomorrow is an at-sea day, then our last port will be Tuesday: Naples and the Isle of Capri. We bought tickets for an excursion to spend the day on Capri since we saw Pompeii and Herculaeum the last time we were here.

Here is information I gathered about Santorini before we began this trip.
The climate in Santorini is typical of the Mediterranean climate. The warm and dry season lasts from April until October, and the cold and rainy season lasts from November until the end of March. Long periods of consecutive rainy days are not common in Santorini, even during the winter, and the sky does not remain cloudy for more than a few days in a row. The average temperature in November 57-62 .

About 3600 years ago, the center of the island was blown away in a colossal volcanic eruption, leaving behind a circular depression in the sea floor (four miles wide) and the crescent-shaped sliver of rock known as Santorini. Santorini is composed of three islands forming a visible rim of the caldera. The best place to view the Caldera is the walking path between Fira and Oia.

Santorini is known because it is a volcanic island with a volcano that sleeps and wakes from time to time to rock Thira (as it is also called) and then sleep again. The huge eruption which occurred years ago was probably the biggest in recorded history and it changed the island morphology a great deal. The results of this catastrophe are still evident nowadays. The beaches of Santorini have black sand, and special kinds of wines are produced because of the soil’s particularity. Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cyclades. Two great civilizations have left their mark on Santorini: one belongs to prehistoric times and is apparent in what has been coming to light in the excavations at Akrotiri. The other is a Greek civilization represented by the ancient city located on Mesa Vouno.

What to See and Do:
  • Fira - Accessible only by foot, Santorini's largest town is a village of whitewashed houses clinging to steep volcanic cliffs. Accessible only by foot, Fira's narrow cobblestone lanes lead uphill past shops, homes and cafés to a cable car, which tourists can ride to the top of the caldera.
  • Panagia Episkopi Church - Dating from the 11th century, it is the oldest remaining Byzantine church on the island. It has withstood raids by pirates, earthquakes, volcano eruptions and a fire in 1915. It is believed that the Virgin Mary protected the holy icons from the fire. Unfortunately 26 of these priceless icons were stolen from the church in 1982 and have never been recovered. There is a stone staircase of 600 steps that leads down to the harbor of Fira, and to a tour boat that will take you across the caldera to the Nea Kammeni island, or "the volcano", as people call it.
  • Oia Village - The small village perches atop the caldera's rim at Santorini's northern terminus. There are narrow, cobblestone lanes, brilliantly whitewashed buildings, shops, cafés and domed churches. There are several local wineries. Santorini's rich volcanic soil combined with the rare assyrtiko variety of grape grown here produce a wine unique to this island.Oia or Ia is the most photographed village in Greece. Life is quieter here than in Fira. The main reason why tourists visit Oia is the spellbinding sunset view for which hordes of people gather in the afternoon and wait for hours till the sun sets to take photographs.
  • Kamari - Today the ancient port of Thera is a large fishing village famed for its dramatic black-sand beach, unique in the Greek islands. Kamari attracts more families because of its long black-sand beach, a characteristic of the island.
  • PREHISTORIC THERA: AKROTIRI - The ancient city at Akrotiri is not merely the most important archaeological site on the island, it is also, thanks to its excellent state of preservation and the wealth of findings it has yielded, the most important prehistoric settlement found anywhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was saved from the volcanic eruption mostly because it was covered in volcanic ashes. Akrotiri could be called the prehistoric Pompeii of the Aegean.


Ruth said...

Joan..thans for posting these reports and the historical inforamtion. I have surely enjoyed reading adn have printed it to read again!

Carol said...

Hi Joan,

I woke up early this morning, and I've enjoyed catching up with your posts about your trip. Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to research each destination so thoroughly. I enjoyed learning about the origin of the "red carpet" expression. I love learning the history behind our various idioms/expressions. Have a safe and happy rest of your trip.